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    Five reasons to see Standing At The Sky's Edge

    Long before the Lycra clad Gladiators reboot came steaming up the travelator and into the city of steel, Sheffield was hit with a gut-punch of a different kind, this one delivered by a deeply heartfelt musical, rather than a sustained injury from Duel…   

    Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a love letter to Sheffield and observes the changing landscape from the city's landmark housing estate. Spanning three generations, the Park Hill resident’s reminisce on past lives and look towards a brighter future, as they navigate the universal themes of love, loss, and survival. Returning to the West End for a strictly limited run, here are five reasons why you should see the critically acclaimed musical.

    The awards

    Standing Ovations at the Sky’s Edge, am I right? Dodgy jokes aside, the musical has received a shed load of awards and critical acclaim. In fact, if you stood all the accolades on top of each other, they would probably reach the height of the famous tower itself! Branded by WhatsOnStage as the ‘most exciting new British musical in years,’ the show took home the Olivier Award for Best New Musical at the 2023 ceremony, the UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Production, and the South Bank Sky Art award! Audiences agree with the critics, packing out the house at the National Theatre and Sheffield Theatre when the award-winning show played there. The Gillian Lynne Theatre will be the third home away from home for the Sheffield saga, having completely sold-out its first two runs.

    The Music

    Richard Hawley, the Sheffield born singer songwriter behind the musical's breathtaking songs was recently described as ‘the Godfather of Sheffield's music scene’ by playwright Chris Bush.

    Music plays a huge role in the city’s identity, in fact the Artic Monkeys were citied as one of the main reasons teenagers in 2006 chose to study at the University of Sheffield. But the city doesn’t have just one sound, ‘We've been shaping tastes forever!’ Bush proudly claimed, ‘one of the wonderful things about the city's cultural scene is how it's evolved and stayed at the forefront of popular music for decades now. From Joe Cocker, through Led Zeppelin, the iconic synth-pop sound of ABC and The Human League, Pulp defining Britpop, Arctic Monkeys defining the noughties, contemporary icons like Self Esteem.’ The musicals score is as successful as the icons that came from the town, earning the Olivier award for Best Original Score or New Orchestrations when Standing At The Sky’s Edge first came to the West End last year.  

    The Story

    ‘I think the best stories will always combine the recognisable with the surprising.’ Bush said. Her previous works, Tony! The Blair Musical and The Assassination of Katie Hopkins, have a well-known face at its centre, with Faustus: That Damned Woman, bringing a twist to a well-known tale. Unlike her previous works, Standing At The Sky’s Edge brings previously unknown characters to the forefront. ‘Playing with an audience's preconceptions is always interesting. That might be about providing a fresh angle to a famous face, but the same thing applies to what any given audience might expect a 'housing estate drama' to look like (or a 'British musical', for that matter).’

    The story follows three families living in the Park Hill estate. Opening in 1961, the musical goes on a journey with the generations that follow as they discover their shared past and look, with hope, to the future. Although the show has been praised as a love letter to the city, the universal themes of love and loss transcend county lines, and has been adored by those who live in, as well as those who have never been to Sheffield. Bush explained that she felt nervous when they brought the production to The National Theatre ‘we had lots of worries around what might be lost in translation’ but she soon found that the impact of the piece had been almost identical to that of her hometown. ‘Everyone knows somewhere a little like Park Hill, everyone knows what it means to belong, to have somewhere to call home, to feel safe (or not) in your surroundings. Actually, the more hyper-specific the references, the more universal the show becomes, because audiences are great at filling in the gaps with their own examples if given a little context.’

    The Characters

    ‘Descriptors like 'Northern' or 'working-class' are all-too-often made synonymous with 'straight' and 'white', and it was really important to me to try to authentically represent the breadth of existence found somewhere like Park Hill.’ Bush explained. The characters in the show are flawed, complex, and authentically real, and represent people you may have grown up with or next to.  There are Harry and Rose, a married working-class couple full of hope and promise as they start their next chapter in their lives. Joy and her cousins who settle in the estate after fleeing Liberia, and a heartbroken middle-class Londoner, Poppy, who attempts a fresh start far away from home.

    The Cast and Creatives

    Written by Chris Bush, who recently became the first British artist to win the Hermitage Major Theater Award, Standing at the Sky’s Edge is a deeply personal project for the creatives involved. Bush grew up in the city and was keen to write about the place where she has spent so many happy memories ‘It's an incredible place, but I don't think we're the best at letting people know it. If you're lucky enough to love where you're from, you want other people to know about it.’ The Olivier award winning playwright and lyricist’s previous works include Pericles, Rock/ Paper/ Scissors and Tony! The Blair Musical, which won her the inaugural Sunday Times NSDF Award.

    Richard Hawley provides the music and lyrics (and show title! Standing At The Sky’s Edge is the Hawley’s 2012 album). His trademark wistful songs are expertly woven throughout the piece and provide many beautiful, yet heartbreaking, moments. Hawley is an accomplished singer-songwriter and musician, most famously joining brit pop band Pulp in 2000, before kicking off his illustrious solo career in 2001. 

    The talented main cast are comprised of award winner Lauryn Redding (Bloody Elle), Rachael Wooding (Pretty Woman), Lillie-Pearl Wildman (Sunset Boulevard) Nicola Sloane (Les Misérables) Elizabeth Ayodele (Small Island) Joel Harper-Jackson (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) Sharlene Hector (A Strange Loop), Jonathan Andre (Fela!), Jonathon Bentley (From Here to Eternity) Samuel Jordan (Sex Education) Mel Lowe (The Fair Maid), David McKechnie (Chicago) Rachael Louise Miller (Les Misérables), Baker Mukasa (Tina the Musical), Alastair Natkiel (Strangers on a Train), Laura Pitt-Pulford (Flowers for Mrs Harris), and Adam Price (Hairspray).

    Book tickets to Standing At The Sky’s Edge now.

    Playing for a strictly limited run, don’t miss your chance to see this critically acclaimed show.

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